Monday, June 2, 2014

A New Start, Again - Part 1


Over the course of the last two years, I have made numerous new starts. When I moved from Seattle almost exactly two years ago, I went in search of having my faith restored in humanity and a bit more sanity in my own mind. That search took me many places. I traveled the most of the US and popped into a couple of foreign countries. I traveled by plane, train, boat, car, bus, bike and my own legs. I slept on couches, beds, sidewalks, beaches and in cars. I met people from every single walk of life. My quest for hope restored was rewarded quite early on. It was restored primarily in small towns. These towns are without a doubt the backbone of our wonderful country.

I arrived in a picturesque small harbor town in Maine just a few weeks after I left Seattle. That marvelous little corner of the world is where the majority of my hope was restored (see 2012 blog entries). It didn't take me long to find friends who opened their arms and homes to me without any reservations. Well, if they had reservations, they never showed them. I spent six months with the most genuine, kind and generous folks anyone could hope to encounter. Most nights were spent as a group laughing, drinking and listening to our favorite musicians on vinyl. Life was slow paced, conversations were never rushed and as days passed, I aspired to return the endless kindness I received to each new person I met. However, as the days did pass, I realized Maine wasn't the end for me (though I would love to go back and live there someday). There was more waiting for me and I knew it.

Life is more than curious and from Maine I went on a series of adventures. On one of these adventures I was riding my bike from Washington, down the West Coast with no actual destination, aside from somewhere warm. One day, as I rode down highway 101 through the vast redwoods forest, with the waves of the salty ocean crashing on the beaches next to me, the thought of Austin, Texas and farming came to mind. As soon as I began considering, I made the decision that that was where I wanted to go and somehow needed to be. And soon enough, after a few more adventures, I found myself on the most spectacular farm just outside of Austin.

The Simmons family (who owned and operated the farm) were honestly some of the purest souls I have met to date. Their kindness and generosity is unmatched. I was fortunate to see a family exist in true love, even in the midst of very different views on life. The one thing they all did agree on was that love is reserved for all, joy is essential, food should be both delicious and plentiful and life is valuable. As I write this, I am remised because I feel my writing skills lack, as I don’t think I can convey in words the love I saw (and experienced) and the wisdom that was shared with me by these magnanimous folks.

The wisdom shared was not just wisdom about how to effectively grow healthy, organic foods (though there was plenty of that!), but I gleaned much wisdom about life and love. It wasn't something they ever preached, as they are far too humble to do such things, rather it was in day to day interactions. Interactions they had with me, interactions they had with each other and interactions they had with those they sold their delicious food to. If someone failed around them, they didn't rub it in their face; they didn't gossip behind their back; they didn't hold it against them in the future. They took it in stride, acknowledged the failure and taught with grace how to move forward. 

I received this grace when I spent a part of a morning harvesting radishes that were overripe.  Of course this is a simple example, but the response was powerful. I had wasted valuable time on harvest day (our busiest day where time efficiency is key). I could have been mocked for it (as I've been mocked for far less mistakes) or made an example of, but instead it was just brushed over, required no penance and I was showed, plainly, what my mistake was. Again, a simple example, but even in that, grace abounded. It was the daily reactions to things like that that made an overarching impact on me (and I've no doubt, others). When you live a life where you let the little things go and teach with grace how to move forward, it translates into all of the bigger things in life. For me, when I am gifted with this kindness, I recognize that that is how I should be living. It's a valuable lesson that I can be too quick to forget.

In our culture we've gained more anonymity than we know what to do with. It is all too easy to treat people as less than they are. We are lacking a social accountability. I believe this is because of technology and massive populations. The mean, snide or judgmental comment you leave is easy to do when you don’t have to say it aloud to the person and then watch how it affects them the rest of the day or week or month, or in some cases, the rest of their life. Each person is living a life you know nothing about, and you know nothing about it because you haven’t made the effort to know what’s going on in a persons life. Of course I don’t think one needs to know the inter-workings of every individual they cross paths with. My point is, if you don’t know the inter-workings, you don’t have right to negative commentary. And if you did know the details, you would (one would hope) prefer not to say negative things because you’re more empathetic than that.

The virtue is old: treat others as you would want to be treated. Yet this is a virtue that seems to be getting lost more and more in our world as each day passes. Not all is lost though, because I've seen the kindness and compassion in action, it still exists in pockets and I believe those pockets of people are what will be our proverbial saving grace. So long as we're willing to emulate these extraordinary people who teach freely without knowing it, we can gain back our integrity and pass it on to the following generations.

Hmm… I began this entry to tell the tale of how I’m living in Georgia with the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with, but it seems I took a different direction once I hit on my galvanizing farming friends in Texas. It would seem my fingers wander with my mind as I write. Alas, I shall save the rest of that story for my next entry.

Until then…

Saturday, May 3, 2014

When a Serial Dater Chooses Monogamy

It's no secret, I haven't been one to seek or prefer monogamy for ... well, a long while. The few actual relationships I have had I more fell into than chose. That being said, when I was in relationships I was always monogamous and gave, for better or worse, all that I had. When the last relationship I was in ended badly, it left me with something similar to the taste of bleach in my mouth (and much fear in my heart). I went from R the girlfriend, to R the wild card. This was neither good or bad, it was simply a thing. Something I chose to do and just as I gave my everything to the relationships I had been in, I gave my everything to singledom.

The shenanigans that ensued from this lifestyle choice resulted in many a tellable tale. I knew how to have a very good time and my friends and anyone within eye or earshot was well aware of this. One of my more favorite games (if you will) was to walk into a bar and point to the most appealing suitor and go for it. Without fail, it worked every time. Every. Time. You can imagine what that does to a persons confidence. And when you walk with confidence, you can accomplish pretty much anything (or anyone) you set your sights on. New town, city or bar, same town, city or bar, no problem. I would gladly jump into any new situation and thrive in it. Scale the bar to explore the rooftop in dress boots and a tutu, hell yes! Dress up in costumes for no reason and razor scoot around town at all hours of the day and night, why the heck not?! Walk into (or out of) a bar and get strangers to come back to the resort, party or campgrounds to party with us, I'm on it! Dole out special goodies to friends and strangers and watch what unfolds, oh yeah, most definitely! Climb a tree in a party dress, hell yeah! Dress up and dance for 12 hours on rooftops, count me in! Take whatever someone put in my hand and consume it, done.

Needless to say, I created a very distinct persona. It pleased me that those around me knew and expected me to be up for quite literally anything. To be someone whom people always expected the unexpected from was a blast and I loved every minute of it. In the midst of all of this mayhem, as you can imagine, I met and dated many a fellow. I don't mean I had relationships with many a fellow, I mean I dated. I loved going on a different date multiple times a week. And the dates I went on! They ranged from comically horrifying to movie montage perfection. I was a very lucky lady and though I may not have wanted any future with any of these fellows, I appreciated each encounter, no matter how vapid or worthwhile. Because every date meant another story and I collect stories like a hoarder collects garbage.

Enter monogamy.

This has thrown many people for a rather unexpected loop. Which, for me is rather comical because if you know me, you know by now to expect the unexpected. But this is not the unexpected people want from the wild card. About a year ago I wrote about how I'd been wondering if "my hobby (serial dating) had become my vocation?" Not a "plaguing thought", but certainly something I had begun to wonder about as I spent long days and nights alone working on a rural farm in Texas. I wondered "Could I exist in a happy, healthy, long term relationship if I tried? If after I share those first moments and someone asks me to stay and not go, would I? Could I? Could I open that door back up and walk through it? If I could, would boredom and cynicism boil up quickly and destroy the potential of anything of true substance?" At the time the answer was most definitely NO! But as someone who loves growing, evolving and learning, it was in the back of my mind on each date I went on. The desire for short term began fading one day and soon it was less and less, though I continued to date around.

Then it happened. Someone asked me for more. Someone said "choose me". And with a great deal of consideration, weighing the pros and cons and being logical (or maybe wholly illogical), I chose him. I acknowledged that I had been allowing fear to rule that portion of my life. Yes, I had been having fun. Yes, I had enjoyed every non-committal date. I had no fear to jump into any new situation, but only so long as that situation was brief and came with a quick exit. Fear fueled every short term romance. Protecting my heart had become my full time job. When I acknowledge that and the choice was directly in front of me, well, choosing monogamy was easy. When you say "screw fear!" the choice for personal happiness and love is easy. When someone looks you in the eye and without a word you know that they know you are more than you have become, well, swoon. When someone who has heard of the aforementioned tales on an almost daily basis and loves you because in the midst of all of those tales, they have seen your true self and love you more with each passing day, you have to take a chance on that.

Not just monogamy, but partnership feels good. It feels damn good. Life should always be about growth. Stagnation is death. Fear of change is weak. And I am not weak. I am mighty. I love long, deep and hard. Monogamy is not the death of me, staying the same and not taking a risk on love would be. My behaviors have changed and this is a hard pill for some to swallow, but I don't make life decisions for others, I make them for myself. I am who I am, but I want to be more, do more and am crazy out of my mind excited to partner with someone who wants me to be and do more. Shit's getting real, are you scared? I'm not! Screw fear!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Spring is in our sights!

When I first arrived and began meeting Chicagoans they would say "Oooh, this is going to be your first Chicago winter?? I hope you're ready for cold." I was even given a newspaper article that described what truly made a Chicagoan and described the proper attire and essential tools to survive in the cold and snow. I prepared myself for the worst.

Then the cold started setting in. I still didn't feel like it was all that bad. I was still biking, still socializing and still getting by with the small winter wardrobe I'd accumulated. In the beginning of December folks said "this is about as cold as it gets. We'll get some cold spells, but if you're still biking in this, you'll do just fine here." They warned of storms and cold and snow, but spoke confidently that winter wouldn't be all that bad.

Enter: Polar Vortex #1

As I'm sure you all heard from the media, it snowed here and it got cold. Real, real, real cold. And it snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed. I had 3 weeks off of work, 2 for holiday and the 3rd because of weather. I experienced windchills as cold as -45 degrees and it became normal for the temperature to go no higher than 0. Not 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which is freezing. That would be 0 degrees Fahrenheit; 32 degrees BELOW freezing. And for weeks that became normal, give or take 10 degrees on either side. And when it is 0 degrees, 10 degrees actually feels warmer. When it is 10 degrees and you get into the 20s, it's a wonderfully glorious feeling. Who knew I would ever find this normal?

According to an article from WBEZ.org from Dec. 1, 2013, to Feb. 6, 2014, the lowest temp registered at O'Hare was -16 F. During the same period, the area received 68.7 inches of snow. Since that article, we've gotten another 6-8 inches of snow. The real problem lies in the fact that we live in the city. This isn't Alaska or Minnesota where folks live a slower pace and are content to be boxed up inside for weeks, even months on end. No, we are the third largest city in the country, people don't want to stop doing anything, ever. Patience is short, time is valuable and being able to get from point A to point B is crucial to most peoples lives. At least they think so. Due to that, people haven't been happy. As a whole, Chicagoans are glad to grumble to those around them about their most recent negative experience with the snow - I spent 45 minutes shoveling out my garage or I waited an hour for a bus in this shit and so on. It has, however, been kind of a fun common ground to stand on with practically every person you chat with.

All of that being said, we're on the other side of that. So it seems. There are 27 days left of actual Winter and you can feel the change! 20s-30s is what looks to be the norm in the forecast and everyone is pleased with that. As Spring nears, you can feel the mood change. As a whole, the city grumbled together, and as a whole, the city will rejoice together. We are going to see a collective rebirth unlike one I've ever seen, I imagine. People are going to party and it's not going to stop until next Winter. It will be fucking splendid.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Farewell For Now

Glorious: having a striking beauty or splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration.
That is how I would describe my life in my final few weeks on the island. Granted, this entire year has been quite special and has evoked many feelings of delighted admiration. However, my farewell (for now) to my family, friends and home in the magnificent Puget Sound will go down in history as one of the greatest farewells I've ever experienced thus far.

I was fortunate enough to be around for the start of school for my nieces and nephew. I got to watch my youngest niece walk into her first day of kindergarten! As well as my 7 year-old niece begin 2nd grade. My 13 year-old niece begin 8th grade and my 15 year-old nephew begin 10th grade! I remember each of them being so tiny, so vividly. They're all growing so quickly and are such funny, imaginative, smart, sweet kids.
My last day on the island I swam roughly 3.5 miles with my incredible little brother - from the island to the mainland.

Wearing wetsuits and paced by two boats we began our swim. We got into the water from the island at 12:22pm and stepped onto the shore in Steilacoom at 3:22pm. Exactly 3 hours! Killed it. We had two boats pacing us; one on either side and we didn't cross paths with one jellyfish. We had one seal swim around about a hundred yards away, but it kept at bay and soon disappeared into the great unknown. The swim proved to be fairly easy. Salt water definitely made us more buoyant and helped our pace. We didn't once stop for a break or have any problems. At the end of the 3 hours we were certainly ready to be finished, but were also very pleased to have made it without incident!

I couldn't conjure up a better way to leave the island. It felt brilliant to have accomplished the task we'd talking about and had been working up to all summer. Little brother is a beast! We had a blast.
I tried to attach a few pictures, but I'm updating this via my phone... so I have no idea if this will work.

This was the first time, in quite some time, that I've spent such an extended period back on the island. It was such a gift to be surrounded by my family and to be reminded of all of the greatness we share both together and separately.

It was a summer of much growth and I was pleased to leave on such a happy and harmonious note.
Delaware/Maryland/Pennsylvania have welcomed me very kindly and I am excited to soak in all that surrounds me for the next ...however long...

Fall is coming quickly and balance is making its way as the equinox nears. And so is baby Ellie! We're eagerly awaiting her arrival and she is already one very loved little girl. She'll have a very excited crowd cheering the moment she makes her first appearance. Yay Ellie!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Noteworthy Adventures

This summer has been outta this world. The adventures I've been on have been abundant.

As I prepare to leave this lovely place, I am reveling in many of the great things I've done.

I kayaked around Seattle - one of my favorite things to do in the city. I hiked up Mailbox Peak with a propane tank on my back. I camped in the Columbia Gorge, hiked to waterfalls, swam in the icy mountain water and bathed in beauty of those giant mountains.

Last weekend I married a very happy couple and attended the longest reception I have ever been a part of. People who attended this wedding span the entire length of my life. To clarify, there was such a splatter of island folks, that there were people from every year of my life. Easily the most... informative event I have possibly ever attended. Phew.

To properly say farewell to this crazy-beautiful island, I will swim to the mainland. My bags will be packed and taken across the water via ferry. Little brother and I, however, will take a longer trip swimming to the mainland. We're estimating it to be about a four hour swim, if weather, currents and jellyfish all play in our favor. Fingers crossed.

My 7 year old niece learned how to swim this summer. What an exciting moment! She swam to the deep dock at the swimming hole without floaties or a life jacket. It is quite the rite of passage as an island child. She beamed with pride and so did I. She's been so brave this summer and her courage has paid off, because she's exploring a new ability and freedom. It's very encouraging thing to watch.

Summer is winding down and everyone is preparing for a shift in life. I'm preparing for a few significant changes myself. Life for me will shift, and although I know this in my head, it's a different story when that change fully comes about. I'm looking forward to the clarity that will hopefully come from it.